Blog: Sea Container Program

In a series of blogs, Anne-Bénédicte Lebeau visits the ‘language no problem’ performances at Over het IJ Festival.

The Sea-containers program has been the heart of Over het IJ for eleven years. This summer eleven performances of 15 minutes take place in- or nearby a container. Mime, theatre, dance, installation and video; almost all disciplines are represented, and one theme unites all those performances. For this edition, the Over het IJ Festival asked young artists to shed light on the “European city of tomorrow’’.

Four of those are considered as ‘’language no problem’’ performances:

I am (t)here now
, by The Narrative collective is the first installation I visited. It is a great plunge into the topic. The container is the last one on the wharf, facing the Ij. The doors are open and a swing hangs on the frame. There’s a screen inside and the shines from behind. To discover what this is all about, you’ll have to climb on the swing and rock as a kid. Just as this installation abolishes the notions of in- and outside, it pinpoints the similarities between worlds we sadly tend to divide; such as childhood and adulthood – or North and South.

#watnietweetwatnietdeert is an improvisatory dance performance by Sine Forma. This Dutch phrasing is often translated as “ignorance is bliss’’. Literally, however, it transliterates as “what we don’t know cannot hurt”, and that’s a statement Sine Forma tries to refute. In her city of tomorrow people will share – and not only on Facebook. They will come back to who they really are. The fact that they share their essence not only doesn’t hurt anyone but it makes them grow. Indeed, this is what is happening in the small and closed container while she’s dancing in between us. At the end of the performance she asks to put into writing a piece of our ontological wondering. Therefore, her next performance will be based upon our words. We pass on our legacy, just like the endless chain of humanity.

Not all plays have such theoretical approaches. With Water, Anastasiia Liubchenko made a mime show in which she outlines a future city in which there’s no water. She makes us feel the thirst and gives us biscuits to increase the craving. She introduces different types of water – the purest and most expensive one being the precious bottle of water from Switzerland. In this imaginary city, only the ‘’very rich people’’ can afford it. We smile ironically, thinking of all the “water bars” that have opened in many big cities and are ‘’Oh ! So fancy !’’. We smile, delighted by her storytelling voice, amused by her polar bear mask, and touched by the colourful animated drawings in the background. And this smile gradually morphs into thinking.

In the video performance NDSM Berg (“the mountain of NDSM”), the collective Nicolai Bosko fantasizes how the landscape can influence the temperament of a society. What if Amsterdam was surrounded by mountains? Is the Dutch infamous frankness conditioned by geological features, i.e. the flat landscape? What if there could be, physically, a “higher perspective” in this country? And how our natal land actually influences our way of looking at the world? Once again, we leave the container with so much food for thought that we definitely need a plate at Pllek!

Anne-Bénédicte Lebeau